Jesus is asleep in the boat. The apostles are trying their best to keep the boat afloat and not perish, and all the while Jesus is asleep, on a cushion, in the stern of the boat. I never thought about that while reading the parable — I had only focused on Jesus calming the sea.
He had been teaching the people in parables — stories that often have hidden meaning to those who are attune to the spirit and ready for greater truth.
After a long day,
he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”(Mark 4:36-40)
I was listening to a talk by Jeffrey Holland. He was recounting this story. It seems that the spirit spoke to me and my eyes were opened. It wasn’t the message that Elder Holland intended, but sometimes you hear the message for you. He was speaking to young single adults, especially those whose faith is faltering due to questions about the gospel (I think that’s who and what he was addressing.) He was very “furious” in his own words, about those who would dive off the “good ship.” Stay on the good ship, he said. Trials and difficulties are part of life.
I know of people who have left the church, or the “good ship Zion” because they felt like the ship was not being steered correctly — that Jesus was not at the helm. Some may have left because of unanswered questions about the doctrine, or they just couldn’t handle Joseph Smith using a seer stone in a hat, or some people want deeper doctrine — more meat, less milk in the teachings of the church.
Jesus was asleep in the boat — what can we understand from that?
I love seeking greater light and knowledge, but I stay on the boat. There are so many good people on the boat. And according to this parable, Jesus is on the boat (asleep), and He lets his apostles handle the sails. Actually, that’s what God does. If you look at the past you’ll see various times when the Lord let Joseph Smith use his agency to lead (for example when he started the Bank of Kirtland that failed and all the people became angry.) We should not forget that our leaders are fallible.
Even when they were expert fishermen, they became fearful of the storm and woke up Jesus — a bit angry, asking Him if he didn’t care about them at risk of drowning in the sea. Some people in the church and the world may feel that same way — the ship is in a mighty storm, it doesn’t look good. It’s not just the storm, it’s those handling the sails too. But according to this parable, Jesus is still with us, and He will calm the sea at some point, after the chaos.